Architect Vito Acconci discusses why the goal of an architect should not be to build, but rather come up with a design of space or a condition that surprises us.

Vito Acconci has been creating experimental art and architecture since 1965 and is a designer, performance and installation artist, and an architect. 

In this video from Vice, writer, poet, artist, and architect Vito Acconci discusses why the goal of an architect should not be to build, but rather come up with a design of space or a condition that surprises us.

Vito Acconci has been creating experimental art and architecture since 1965 and is a designer, performance and installation artist, and an architect. 

The video starts with how Acconci was tremendously jolted, the first time he saw Jasper Johns paintings. His abstract paintings made him realize that conventions are important. Abstracts with a target can draw people’s attention whether it’s a painting or in architecture. 

“Architecture is not about space it’s about the time” For example moving over on a street where the world lies in. On a street what if you follow a person. This is one type of activity. there aren’t viewers on the street, except for yourself.

On being questioned why he turned his back to art, Vito explained that he doesn’t feel his connection to the art world. According to him, ‘Art’ is a little slow compared to real life. 

In an attempt to propose a new light system for New York, the competition brief said that the light system should have a thick post because the post would have to hold different kinds of lights and sign. But Acconci found this misguided. He tried the thinnest pole possible then each pole will hold one kind of light or sign, the more you needed you would braid them together (one light and one sign), in this way having multiple lights and signs on a single light post.

Another example is an ‘Urban Camouflage’, the architect designed it by introducing holes in the World Trade Center building design proposal. The building riddled with holes can have tunneled through the building, bringing in the rest of the space can come inside the building like parks, street vendors, in short, public space can be amalgamated with the private office space within the same building. Testing any theory behind a building happens when an architect considers what would happen when other people come in. 

Youtube for Architects: The Future of Architecture and Design by Vice - Sheet1
Design proposal for the World Trade Center by Vito Acconci Image Source- ©www.azuremagazine.com

He further explains if the concept of the building surprises us in the first place, it will surprise the user and the people, which in turn becomes a success for any design. For example, Mur Island in Graz, Australia, when the island was finished people started to use the island as a place for walks of all age groups. The flexibility of spaces, the transition from open space to closed ones without any particular entrance made the built space surprising for the users. The island would have 3 functions. A theatre, a cafe, and a playground. A convention idea of the theatre was started with a bowl, a twisted bowl turned upside down, it becomes a dome which becomes a cafe, the twisting warping space between becomes the playground.

Youtube for Architects: The Future of Architecture and Design by Vice - Sheet2
People pathway between the warping forms.Image Source- ©www.area-arch.it
Youtube for Architects: The Future of Architecture and Design by Vice - Sheet3
Mur Island in Graz, Australia Image Source- ©www.e-architect.co.uk

As an architect, we should appeal to people that “wow we don’t know space didn’t have to be implacable and fixed.” Spaces should be flexible and the user should become more comfortable within it rather than being organized in that space, a system that people can adapt to. Giving an example of a street(Building of Colour Street of Swarms) designed in Indianapolis, the street goes through a building. When people go through it, there is a series of led lights that follow and swarm around you, just like the concept of fireflies mingling.

“Design method should be a real growth method.” The architect wants to believe that the kind of stuff the architects do, is the kind of place we carry with us. According to him maybe the future is a world where people carry their homes with them, there are no boundaries to cross, like a world of nomads, which is an incredibly exciting world but it’s the opposite of home and that is the irony. 

Acconci began his career with an education in creative writing from the University of Iowa and he expresses his longtime desire as an artist for art to become “part of the world,” explaining that this eventually led him to extend his creativity beyond words and artworks. (Source: www.archdaily.com). According to him, unlike art, architecture is inescapable and hence is the perfect vehicle for this: “there isn’t any place you can be where you aren’t in the middle of architecture,” he says. 

Author

Diksha is an architecture graduate from Nirma University, 2020. Being an avid traveler, she has always tried to connect the city's culture with architecture. She is a keen observer, finds inspiration from unexplored places and believes that true essence of architecture lies in its execution (form generation) and user experience.

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